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The good Doctor and the Snake


Life in city 31 is unique, to say the least, being the only city to attempt incorporating earth's new inhabitants, brings in opportunity for unexplored interspecies interaction, newly formed cultures, and an impossible number of changes to the already tumultuous life of the post-invasion earth. Yet an equal amount of discrimination and the everpresent feeling of nearing conflict. Throughout Nilian's life, he has had his share of alien and human bloodshed, now he simply wants to live out his days in this experimental city, contributing to the mixed society's health via his work at one of the leading hospitals. One fatefully awful day, however, Nilian spots a particular female reptile, who soon challenges the human's expectations of himself.

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The doctor's trouble

‘What the fuck happened today?’

Nilian, still lying stationary on his bed, was unable to sleep. Every time he closed his eyes, all that would come were a million thoughts, ideas on how to fix his situation, how he would find her again. He had to, he had no idea how, but he knew he had to, lest he’d never be able to sleep again. As this was obviously not going anywhere, Nilian decided he might as well do something, anything to get his mind off of the scaled figure.

Kicking his legs up, he spun himself off the side of the bed and onto his feet. The moon, which peeked out beneath the rainy cloud cover, shined through the glass balcony door, illuminating his rather spacious apartment in the pale blue light of the half-moon. Thanks to his position in city 31′s hospital, he was able to afford to live in one of the glorious skyscrapers, within the Renova Heights district. He had only moved in about two weeks ago, so the apartment was still rather bare, the walls a mute white, his kitchen barely contained the necessary utensils for anything more than coffee or frying some synthetic meat. But he’d make something of it soon enough, or at least that’s what he’d told himself. Every weekend he imagined putting up paintings and buying furniture, yet his work left him too tired to actually do more than sit on his couch and watch what passed as entertainment on his television, while endlessly scrolling through the newly reactivated internet.

Nilian rubbed his face in his hands, then leaned over to check his mobile wrist computer, which displayed -01:20 AM- in holographic letters. And he didn’t feel the least bit tired.

‘Maybe getting a bit of fresh air will help,’ Nilian hoped and stood up.

He walked over to his balcony door and slid it open, beyond the roof of his balcony, was still the endlessly pouring rain, breathing in the cold night air deeply, as it sent shivers down his spine, due to the contrast between his heated apartment. He closed his eyes and stepped outside, the cold tiles providing another sensational distraction from his hammering thoughts, before grabbing the railing and opening them once more. He stretched out one hand and caught a few of the cold rain droplets. Even if his day had been full of stress and missed opportunities, seeing the skyline of city 31 was undeniably beautiful. Lights of cars going down the unoccupied roads, lights in other apartments, presumedly of other sleepless people, and even the occasional hover transport, which left the city walls at high speeds.

From his view, Nilian could see most other districts, Riverside being the closest, right across the river, beyond which lay Angler’s point. To his right, he overlooked the hundreds of still glowing street-shops, belonging to Downtown, which soon blended into the low-lying buildings of Old Town. Far off in the distance, Nilian could make out the Switchyard and the Fringe, neither of which he had ever been to. The only districts he could not see, as they lay behind the direction his building was facing, were the blocklike buildings of the Stacks, and the Highland Square. The latter of which was where he spent most of his time, as his job was directly in the district’s center.

Nilian brushed some of his hair off his face, then sighed once more, before returning into the cozy warmth of his apartment, his mind having cooled down a little. He returned to his nightstand and picked up his wrist computer. It displayed the time again, as well as a countdown to when his alarm would wake him for work, six more hours of this torturous half-sleep.

“I don’t even know her name! How am I supposed to find her? Why am I even so obsessed with her?...“Nilian spoke out loud, before realizing the absurdity of what he was doing. He hadn’t co sided wanting to be with anyone, much less with an alien. Not that he wasn’t interested in them, it just simply didn’t seem logical.

Frustrated at his lack of a solution, Nilian let himself fall back onto the soft mattress and planted his face in his pillow. He needed to sleep, he couldn’t afford to be tired at work, not with him being one of the few doctors the city had. His experience had come to form during his time with Xcom, where he had been mentored by a man named Julius Karn. Although he had been young, technically too young to work in such a field, under the circumstances they had been in, the doctor took the young man’s enthusiasm as good enough. And although he learned much since then, especially after the late doctor’s passing, his current position was based on the knowledge he had so greedily absorbed in his teens.

After the fall of the Elders, and subsequently their psionic network, he was among the few who were asked to decide the now freed aliens’ fate, thanks to being the successor of the highly regarded doctor Karn. He remembered how adamantly some people were to ´finish the job`, while he and others were strictly against trying to commit genocide towards multiple races. That was where Xcom had split, parts of the old resistance fleeing into the wilderness, while many others decided they would try and live in the reclaimed cities. The idea of city 31 was a glorious, yet perhaps a bit optimistic attempt at unifying their new fellow earthlings. But what were they going to do without that optimism? Round up all the aliens and execute them? No, this had to work.

Nilian didn’t look back too fondly on most days of pre-liberation, too much death, too much responsibility, and the constant knowledge that they were days, if not hours away from potential death. Not that his new job, as head of the Karn Hospital, didn’t carry responsibility or stress, but at least he knew that he could return to a home, that, unless the city suddenly collapsed into chaos, was entirely safe.

‘God, if I keep this up I won’t even make it to the weekend. I just need to think about today one more time, organize my thoughts and finally shut my eyes.’ Nilian hoped his new strategy would somehow improve his mindlessly racing head. He turned to lie on his back and tried to return to his morning.

It had been a dreary and rainy day since the start, not an uncommon sight in city 31, but certainly helpful for water conservation and the Hydroponic plantations. Nilian got out of bed and prepared his leave, pouring himself a bowl of cereal, with artificial milk and some sugary cereal he had bought when he moved in. Mindlessly chewing, Nilian mentally prepared himself for today’s patients. Most of the people who came to the hospital were humans with all sorts of ailments, ranging from bronchitis, all the way to more complicated illnesses like Post-traumatic stress. Thanks to the lack of Psychotherapists in today’s society, medication and advice were handed out by other medical professions. But an ever-increasing number of aliens, presumedly as they were being brought into the city from their detention camps, also found their way into his patient rooms. Their unfamiliar and often strange biology proved a challenge even for the most experienced doctors, yet the fact that they were new to receiving medical aid proved to be an advantage, at least when it came to wait-time and interaction with the medical staff.

When it was time to leave, Nilian put on his heavy black coat and grabbed his umbrella, along with his personal bag, which carried the previous night’s work, as well as many papers, that Nilian deemed too important to leave in his office. Thanks to his portable computer, his apartment door locked behind him automatically. He stepped into the red carpet-lined hallway and made his way to the elevator. He had barely seen his neighbors, mostly because he was out of the building before most and returned later than any as well.

-Ding- The elevator’s doors opened and revealed his reflection in the back mirror. Nilian stepped inside and pressed the ground-level button. As the doors closed, he pulled his small headphones out of his jacket pocket and connected the tiny device to his wrist, to begin playing music. He pressed the random song button, which picked out a nice, calm song without lyrics. Unlike old-world music, most songs today were more focused on creating sounds that were non-offensive to one’s ears and contained few lyrics. It was one of the few things in his morning routine that he truly looked forward to, as it drowned out the noise of the busy streets and prepared him for the stressful day ahead of him.

-Ding- The doors slid to either side and released its rider onto the ground floor of the reception. The massive entrance was empty, except for the suit-wearing sectoid that manned the front desk.

“Good morning, Mr. Arlar. I do hope you have brought an umbrella.” The sectoid said, in his usual robotic, yet friendly tone.

“Morning, Jaar.” Nilian greeted and held up his rain protection demonstratively, then turned back with a friendly smile.

He left through the rotating doors and stepped beneath the rainy outside, extending his see-through umbrella. On the way down, he had already ordered a taxi from his wrist, which would pick him up from the main road, creatively named Highland main, in a few minutes. It was still dark outside, even more so with the heavy dark clouds above, meaning that the only people on the sidewalk, on the way to the main road, were people who either went to work like him or had been out throughout the night.

A group of humans, two mutons, and a lone sectoid was rushing from cover to cover, trying to avoid the rain, passed Nilian. Each of which he gave an acknowledging nod to, although he was definitely more interested in his music than he was in trying to make conversation.

A vibration on his wrist notified him that his ride had arrived, he wasn’t far off the arranged meeting place, yet he still hurried, not wanting to make his driver wait unnecessarily. He rounded the corner of a popular clothes shop and spotted the signature yellow coloration of the taxi service. A newer model, lacking the old-world car’s loud engine. Most vehicles had been replaced by electric ones, though some combustion models were still around. Nilian checked the number on top of the cab’s roof and, sure enough, it was his ride.

As he approached, the door facing the sidewalk opened automatically and Nilian was quick to fold his umbrella, then stepped inside. The inside smelled of scented perfume, and the seats were heavily cushioned leather. Through the window to his front, he saw an older human woman, who gave him a warm, yet, judging by her sunken eyes, tired smile.

“Morning sweetheart, where to?” She asked, as the doors, shut and Nilian strapped himself in.

“Karn hospital, please.” Nilian responded, offering her a warm smile.

The woman nodded and started the electric engines, which made almost no sound. Nilian took out one of his earbuds, preparing in case the lady wanted to do small talk, but, rather to his delight, she didn’t, allowing the doctor to stare out of the window. Raindrops pearled off of the window as street signs and lamps rushed by. The road was almost clear, due to the time and the fact that very few people owned private vehicles.

Around ten minutes later, the lady announced their arrival. Nilian thanked her and stepped out, his ride having already been paid for. He extended his umbrella once more, as he walked to the tall grey building, with the letters `Karn Hospital´ written above the entrance.

Nilian placed his umbrella into the umbrella holder at the entrance, as he took in the sterile hospital air. The bright lights of the reception office were a stark contrast to the dark outside. A few patients sat in the lobby, a woman with her child and a man he had treated just a week ago, still with the cast on his leg. Nilian pulled his earbuds out and put them back into his pocket, nodding and smiling at his soon-to-be clients. He quickly greeted Kelly, the receptionist, who was busy taking a phone call.

He made his way to the elevator and swiped his wrist monitor along it, a small safety measure to avoid patients wandering into the staff area. It took him up to the fifth floor where a short hallway led to the doctor’s personal office.

He sighed as he sat down in his chair and turned his computer on, checking emails, making appointments, and sending out prescriptions. This was the most boring part of his job, though not less necessary.

Finally, he finished with the digital work and sent out a message to Kelly, to send the first patient in, as he made his way back to the elevator, throwing the signature white coat on inside the elevator.

Almost all of the patients were brought into the ground floor offices, as the higher floors were mainly for hospitalized patients or surgeries. Nilian made his way to one of many free offices, as he was one of the earliest staff to arrive, taking over for the nightshift.

First up were the mother and her child, nothing special, as she explained how the child had eaten badly prepared fish. Nilian gave them the required medicine and prepared for the next one. He removed a cask, prescribed antibiotics, extended sick leave, treated an infected wound, realigned a dislocated shoulder, gave a sectoid headache medication, and removed a massive wood splinter from a muton’s back.

The stream of patients seemed never-ending, some coming in with very minor ailments, ranging from weird rashes, that Nilian could only guess the origin of, all the way to someone who lost their finger in a work accident. The hours went by and the only thing keeping Nilian going was the fact that he could relax on his own time soon enough.

On break time, he went into the meeting room, one furnished with a half-circle table and food and drinks, which were brought in fresh that morning. Some light and sugary pastries, fresh coffee, and a few sandwiches. Over the day, the hospital’s day staff had come in, mostly other doctors and nurses, but also medical students. Nilian grabbed himself a coffee and a sandwich, then sat at the end of the table, while his coworkers chatted about something which he chose to not engage in heavily.

Though his alone time was interrupted by John, one of the surgeons, who made his way over and grabbed a chair. Nilian only glanced up from his food to give an inquisitive look, which John took as an invitation to talk.

“So, Nilian. The staff has been planning to do something fun outside of work, like going out to eat or drink at a bar and we were wondering if you’d like to join us. I know you said that you’re always very busy, but I figured I might as well ask.” He said in a calm tone, which didn’t betray whether he was genuinely asking out of his own kindness, or if he was just the unlucky guy that had to ask the lead doctor.

Nilian wasn’t grumpy or bitter in any way, he simply preferred to keep his work-life and private time separate. Though this offer seemed a better idea than sitting in his home alone, especially since the weather forecast predicted that this rain would keep up for a few days at least.

Nilian swallowed the rest of his food, then asked: “When and where?”

The look of surprise on John’s face finally revealed that it was an act of asking out of principle, rather than something he expected to get an agreement on.

“Oh, uh. Today, after our shifts are over. So at around 9 PM. We haven’t fully decided on a place yet, but the majority want to go to the Old Harbor Inn, at the edge of Riverside.” John recovered from the revelation and explained.

Nilian listened intently, he hadn’t heard of the bar, or inn as the name suggested, but perhaps this wasn’t such a bad idea, considering he really hadn’t made acquaintances with anyone in city 31.

“Sure, I have nothing planned for today. I’m in!” Nilian confirmed enthusiastically.

John was quick to smile in response and announced it to the other staff, who looked surprised at the news. Sadly, Nilian’s break was about to end, so he said his goodbyes and received a `see you later´.

The rest of his shift was spent just like the first half, nothing special or particularly distracting, allowing him time to worry if he had just messed up. It was true, he had no plans and no reason not to go, yet it still felt weird.

Soon enough, the end of his shift, and therefore his social appointment approached. He gathered his things and checked the message on his PC, which confirmed their meeting.

“Aww, fuck it.” He sighed quietly and called a taxi.

The rain had not ceased, even seeming to intensify, as the cab, which was driven by a sectoid, made its way across the bridge and into the Riverside district. He was let out on the corner of a rather fancy-looking establishment, the neon letters confirmed that this was indeed the Old Harbor Inn, although it didn’t seem that old.

The smell of booze emanated from within and the sound of music, mixed with drunken laughter sounded through the concrete walls. He quickly checked his monitor, which displayed the time as 9:20 PM, his colleagues must already be inside.

He entered the building through a swinging door and gazed in surprise, that the interior was decorated as an old fishing boat, fishing nets, decorative anchors and fake fish hung from the ceiling. The bar was made from separate wood planks, that looked weathered, though Nilian guessed that was also just decorative. Behind it was a multitude of colorful bottles and, in the hands of its attendants were stylish mugs made from wood. The surrounding booths reminded him of retro movies’ portrayal of on-ship tables, most of which were stretched-out barrels. He spotted his coworkers, all of which sported casual clothing and some drink in their hands.

Nilian was immediately noticed and waved over by Kelly, whose blond hair was tied in a bun behind her head. He took a free seat and placed his jacket and satchel behind him.

As he sat down, he noticed John smirking more than usual, as he nudged against the arm of Robert, who rolled his eyes and pulled out some credits. John quickly put them away, then turned to Nlian.

“What would you like to drink, then? This round’s on Rob!” He announced loudly, definitely already tipsy.

“Whatever you’re having, seems to be fun,” Nilian replied.

John chuckled, then called one of the waiters over. Once the interruption was over, his colleagues continued a discussion, they seemed to have had before Nilian arrived. Something regarding Kelly’s sister.

Shortly after, Nilian’s drink arrived, in a similar tankard most drinks seemed to be served in. It smelled of liquor, with a hint of various spices. Nilian clanked it against those of his colleagues, then drank. He wasn’t a fan of alcohol, but the spices did well enough to make it enjoyable.

As the night continued, only some questions were aimed at the doctor, asking where he lived, what he did in his free time, and other such miscellaneous information, which he could answer quickly.

After his first beverage, Nilian opted for a non-alcoholic drink, that reminded him of sparkling fruit juice, much to the dismay of John, who was definitely drunk by the end of their evening.

At around 10:30 PM, Nilian decided that he would need to make an exit soon, as he really didn’t want to be tired.

That’s when she walked or rather slithered by. The enormous form of the alien reptile, colored in black, white, and grey scales, with a humanoid torso, had somehow eluded the doctor’s otherwise observant gaze until now. She wore a black jacket, that reached far lower than human clothing, beneath it was a white shirt. A red scarf was wrapped around her long neck and hood and hung from her side. Beneath the humanoid waist, she was adorned in specialized viper clothing, which could best be described as a long sock.

The second she entered his peripheral vision, Nilian could not help but follow the smooth, flowing movement of the serpent with his eyes, until he had to move his head to do so. There was just something about the way her body seemed to move as one continuous motion, the way her scales reflected the dim light of the bar and her deep green eyes, that forced Nilian’s gaze upon her. One thing, however, was undeniable in the human’s mind, she was the most beautiful being he had ever seen. His mouth was slightly opened and his head followed her past their table on autopilot. All the noise, all the stress of the day, the drunken chatter of his colleagues, and his tiredness were all gone within an instant.

Nilian had to turn his body at that point, as she made her way towards the exit, her tongue flicked out a few times and she looked outside through the doors, pausing for but a moment, before extending an umbrella she held at her side and walking outside.

It wasn’t the first time Nilian had seen a viper, in fact, he had been amongst the lucky few to have operated on one. But there was just that combination of features, colors, and shapes, that would not let his mind wander to anything but her. And she was leaving.

The decision was instant, he had made it the second he had spotted her.

“Alright, it’s been fun, but I gotta go home now and get a bite to eat. See you guys Friday!” Nilian scrambled to get his jacket and satchel, not even bothering to finish his drink.

The conversations around him stopped suddenly and he felt the confused gaze radiate from his fellow workers, but he didn’t care.

“I...guess? Goodnight.“John responded confused, but Nilian didn’t bother trying to justify himself, for he wasn’t entirely sure what he was going to do next, either.

The snake had already left, so he hurried out and into the rain. He quickly threw on his jacket but didn’t have time to open his umbrella. The rain soaked him in a matter of seconds, but that was low on his priority list. He scanned the surrounding sidewalk, looking for the scaled woman, and sure enough, spotted her a bit further down the road, about to get into a taxi.

Panic began to rise in him, she was going to leave and he was too far. So, like a madman, he began sprinting towards her, in some stupid attempt to change the situation. From this distance, plus the lowered visibility of darkness and rain, he could swear he saw her piercing green reptilian lock with his, for but a moment, before her entire body slipped into the cab. He was simply too far and with that, she took off, leaving the doctor completely alone in the wet rain.

Nilian stopped walking, staring after the car, trying to make out any details, but it was too late and it soon left his field of vision. His hair clung to his face and his clothes stuck to his body. He returned to his senses and quickly popped open his umbrella, not that he could change his status anymore. Proceeding to take a ride home, Nilian’s thoughts would not deviate from the beautiful alien for the rest of the night, leaving him to ponder how and if he would ever see her again.

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